Ukrainian Wedding Traditions: What Foreigners Should Brace For?

Some Ukrainian wedding "rituals" might seem weird to Westerners. For you not to go crazy on a solemn day, we prepared the most exciting and peculiar Ukrainian wedding practices to get familiar with.

1. Engagement and parents’ blessing

In old times, pre-wedding procedures lasted long. The young man had to woo the girl, after that he would come to her house with “svaty” – Ukrainian matchmakers – to ask for her hand in marriage. If the girl agreed, she would put a handkerchief on his wrist. Otherwise, the guy would be given a pumpkin and “kicked out” of the house.

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But don’t worry, in the modern day, betrothal in Ukraine is usually what happens intimately between a man and a woman. Just like in the Western world, the man is awaited to kneel down and put an engagement ring on the girl’s right-hand finger. Nevertheless, some Ukrainian parents still require a bridegroom to come to their house with bread and salt, asking the permission or blessing (if the family is religious), as well as with a bottle of champagne and some flowers.

Often the twosome in Ukraine gets a blessing from the Orthodox parents right on the wedding day (it is normally at the weekend). The parents of the girl hold icons and pray for the happy matrimony.

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2. Korovai & rushnyk

These are the two things you will encounter on a Ukrainian espousal. Korovai is a decorated wedding bread cooked in advance. However, it is not the wedding cake. After the couple gets married and goes to a restaurant to celebrate the event, tamada (the invited host of the wedding) asks the soon-to-be honeymooners to bite a piece of korovai. According to Ukrainian beliefs, the one who eats the most will rule the house.

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The same goes for rushnyk. It is a piece of plain cloth which is laid in front of the twosome in the Registry Office before they vow. After each of them says “I do,” they will be asked to step on rushnyk – a symbol of family life. Once again, who steps the first, will be the head of the household.

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3. Veil change and the mommy dance

In Western states, it is a popular ritual for a young wife to dance with her father. In Ukraine, people do it too, but the more popular dance is between the mother of a girl and her son-in-law. But it is not as simple as you may think!

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In some Ukrainian regions, mothers require sons-in-law to sit them on a chair, take off their high heels, wash their feet in horilka (national vodka) and after that put on their feet new boots. Then the man can dance with his mother-in-law to the song called “Choboty” – boots. This is to show that the young husband can be a breadwinner.

Ukrainian brides, by the way, are required to wear the white bride’s veil (in old times they wore a wreath). After the girl gets married, she is supposed to change the veil with hustka – a headscarf (to show that she is not single anymore) – and dance with the youngest unmarried girl.

Dave Greenberg

Dave Greenberg is a senior associate editor and writer at Yourbride specializing in international marriages and mail-order bride services. Before joining Yourbride, Dave Greenberg has been a professional dating coach who stands behind 20+ successful marriages. Being an experienced couple counselor, Dave continues helping singles find their matches all over the world.

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